Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday Feature ~ Hadar: Morocco's New Security Plan

Morocco reacts to security threats with new plan - Hadar
The Moroccan counterterrorism policy is always procreative and based on available information, as is evident by the smashing of several terrorist networks by security forces, said Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar and Communication Minister Mustapha El Khalfi. But, as the Minister explained, there is more to do.
Mohamed Hassad, Salaheddine Mezouar and Mustapha Khalfif Hadar

The country already has a national anti-terror plan in place, but Moroccan authorities said it was insufficient and so the government has acted quickly to increase security. A new security plan has been launched to counter the threat posed by ISIS (known in Morocco as Daesh). The new security mechanism "Hadar" was launched on Monday at Casablanca's Mohammed V airport.

Senior government figures, Mohamed Hassad, Salaheddine Mezouar and Mustapha Khalfi held a press conference to explain the implementation of Hadar. Their airport conference came less than a fortnight after a Moroccan national, with his two young French daughters in tow, was arrested at Mohammed V International Airport en route to join the Daesh terrorist group.

Interior Minister, Mohamed Hassad, did not disclose the exact nature of the threats facing the country but Moroccan authorities have lately expressed their increasing concerns about Moroccan jihadists recruited to fight in Syria and Iraq and about their plans after they return from these trouble spots.

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad

In Rabat last week the Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said that Morocco does not face currently direct terrorist threats, underlining the general threats facing several countries “which should be taken into consideration in our security approach.”

To face up to any contingency, the government had already adopted a series of precautionary measures, including tightening controls at airports and along the country’s borders and amending anti-terrorism law. Under the new laws, those who join or try to join armed organisations inside or outside Morocco will face heavier sanctions ranging from 5 to 15 year prison terms and fines of up to $60,000.

According to official estimates disclosed this summer, the number of Moroccans and Moroccans holding a second nationality that have so far been recruited by jihadist groups, including the Daesh group (ISIS), exceeds 2,000.

Under the new plan further security improvements will be deployed at airports and train stations in the major cities. In addition tourist destinations and large public gatherings will also have added security to protect citizens from terrorist threats against Morocco by Daesh.

Hadar will provide additional security at airports and public places

While not all details of the plan have been made public, for obvious security reasons, what is known is that Hadar will include the deployment of members of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), the Royal Gendarmerie, the Police and the Auxiliary Forces.

In the first phase, Hadar will be deployed in the six major cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, Tangier and Agadir and in the second phase Hadar will be extended to other regions of the country.

The government is wasting no time in implementing Hadar as was clear in Fez this weekend. The presence on the streets of the Fez Medina of armed members of FAR was met by curiosity by locals and visitors alike. The FAR members, operating in groups of three, appeared relaxed but vigilant. A shopkeeper on the Talaa Kbira, Hamid, told The View from Fez that anything the government did to keep the country safe from extremists was welcome. "Fez is peaceful now, humdullilah and we want it to always be that way, inshallah," he said.

The Hadar mechanism’s functioning will be supervised by a central unit based in the Interior Ministry and backed up by regional cells chaired by governors (walis).

The Moroccan media have been overwhelmingly supportive of the government's strategy. Magharebia site reports comments from security experts in its latest post and quotes political analyst Ahmed Bekkali.

Morocco wants to make sure that there are no weaknesses that can be exploited by terrorist networks, especially amid an international context characterised by the rise of extremism, political analyst Ahmed Bekkali said. In his view, it is necessary to combat not only terrorism but also the criminal organisations active in the Sahel or other regions, as all forms of illegal trafficking are connected.

According to Bekkali, Moroccan officials are aware of the scale of the threat faced by not only by the Kingdom but also several countries around the world, hence the need to boost international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including through intelligence-sharing.

Moroccan police - alert but not alarmed

Experience shows that the Moroccan authorities are able to thwart the criminal manoeuvres of terrorists, student Hakima Berreh said.

This is demonstrated by the number of cells that have been caught in Morocco over the past few years thanks to the vigilance of the intelligence and national security services, she explained.

"The implementation of a new security plan can only reassure us, because we have confidence in the competence of our security services," she said.

Hadar in Fez "a new security plan can only reassure us"

For Ahmed Maniari, an employee, the decision to step up security means that the danger is real.

"That has been the feeling for several months now," he told Magahrebia. "Morocco is not immune to the threat posed by terrorists, especially those from Daesh, who want to spread their backward ideology," he said.

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